What's in a Name?: How Proper Names Became Everyday Words

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9780756764036: What's in a Name?: How Proper Names Became Everyday Words

Think of it. Our children drink Shirley Temples. We used to dance the lindy hop, & we still enjoy beef Stroganoff & beef Wellington. English abounds with words taken directly from the monikers of famous folk far & wide. This fascinating dictionary offers an exhaustive collection of eponyms -- proper names that have been transformed into the language we use every day. Some examples include: saxophones, cardigan sweaters, ferris wheels, dry martinis, pullman cars, & diesel engines. This is a fascinating & unrivaled exploration of a special subset of the English vocabulary.

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Review:

Venn diagram, Möbius strip, and Achilles' heel are all phrases that clearly derive from the names of the persons who described, discovered, or inspired them. But a lot of English words one would never know had originated in proper names. So knowing, however, enriches one's understanding of the word, whether the person behind it is real or imagined, historical or literary, a scientist or a mythical figure. The next time you see a maverick (Samuel Augustus Maverick, Texas cattle rancher) epicure (Epicurus, Greek philosopher) whisk up a tantalizing béchamel sauce (Marquis de Béchamel), don't hector (Trojan hero) him about his sideburns (Union general Ambrose Everett Burnside) or his cardigan (James Thomas Brudenell, 7th Earl of). Just grab a sandwich (also Earl of), your favorite teddy bear (President T. Roosevelt), and a copy of Eugene Ehrlich's wonderfully entertaining What's in a Name, for a laze under the bougainvillea (Louis Antoine de Bougainville). No Baedeker (German publisher) can recommend an afternoon better spent. --Jane Steinberg

About the Author:

One of America's premier wordsmiths, Eugene Ehrlich is the author and editor of many reference books on language, including Les Bons Mots (Owl Books, 0-8050-5810-9, $12.95) and the classic Amo, Amas, Amat, and More. He lives in Mamaroneck, New York.

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Eugene Ehrlich
Published by Henry Holt & Co. (1999)
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